So while watching the Super Bowl yesterday our living room went quiet when this advertisement crossed our screen …
When it ended, everyone seemed happy and glowy. But because I’m a notorious asshole skeptic, I wasn’t overly happy or glowy. I mean, I love everything about charity, and donating money to fight cancer seems unambiguously terrific. But I don’t love the efforts companies often go to in order to make us feel charitable when our intent was entirely to purchase a hamburger or a phone or a pair of shoes or, in this case, a pretty expensive car. I mean, not one person in the above commercial probably bought a Hyundai because he/she thought to himself/herself, “This will be a wonderful deed.” And that’s fine—we all need vehicles to get from one place to another.
So to have cancer survivors hugging folks because they, eh, shelled out $30,000 for a car is—at best—an emotional stretch. But here’s how it gets even worse: About 35 seconds into the ad, a young man says, “Every time you buy a Hyundai, a portion of those proceeds go to childhood cancer research.” And, after a little bit of digging, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a literal truth. Or, ahem, a truth at all. Now, Hyundai has donated (the company says) $130 million to pediatric cancer, and that’s great. But when I called its American headquarters earlier today, no one could verify the donation-with-every-purchase claim (the $130 million figure was repeated). It’s also not on the Hyundai website.
Why? Because it’s almost certainly not true. Most of the time, companies like Hyundai and McDonald’s commit to giving X amount to X charity, and somehow it’s legal for them to then say, “With every purchase you help donate (emphasis on the you).” Usually, the nobody-ever-looks-to-see-it giveaway is the fine print. A Happy Meal box, for example, often extols the virtues of the (admittedly virtuous) Ronald McDonald House, and thanks you for helping. But in the tiniest of print at the base of the box, usually strategically located beneath Grimace’s left ass cheek, one learned that a whopping single cent of the purchase goes to charity. I’m not exaggerating—take a look.
Now, again, Hyundai gives to charity, and that’s great. But if I started bragging about all the money I give to cancer research, I’d be an asshole. You’d rightly say, “If you care so much, why do you need all the attention?” And you’d be right.
In this case, we have a car company trying to sell cars. If that involves using cancer donations as a tool, well, OK.
It is what it is.